Turbulent flow is a type of fluid (gas or liquid) flow in which the fluid undergoes irregular fluctuations, or mixing, in contrast to laminar flow, in which the fluid moves in smooth paths or layers. In turbulent flow the speed of the fluid at a point is continuously undergoing changes in both magnitude and direction. The flow of wind and rivers is generally turbulent in this sense, even if the currents are gentle. The air or water swirls and eddies while its overall bulk moves along a specific direction.
Most kinds of fluid flow are turbulent, except for laminar flow at the leading edge of solids moving relative to fluids or extremely close to solid surfaces, such as the inside wall of a pipe, or in cases of fluids of high viscosity (relatively great sluggishness) flowing slowly through small channels. Common examples of turbulent flow are blood flow in arteries, oil transport in pipelines, lava flow, atmosphere and ocean currents, the flow through pumps and turbines, and the flow in boat wakes and around aircraft-wing tips.
Excerpt from the Encyclopedia Britannica without permission.